In the event of growing up, key tenets of masculinity are stripped away to caricature.
Country boys begin their lives as curious and fey, but as they grow, society demands their innate masculinity be stripped from them.
A workshop in Launceston hosted by well-known West Australian author Tim Winton will examine those key concepts as the author promotes his new book The Shepherd’s Hut.
“I see the trajectory boys are on, they are on rails, that’s why we see these high rates of depression and suicide and jail sentences,” he said.
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“I see them repeat the patterns of their fathers, I see it in their attitudes towards women.”
Winton’s books often feature vulnerable male protagonists who undergo character journeys and transformation in coming-of-age stories that get to the heart of the male condition.
Of Jaxie, The Shepherd’s Hut’s protagonist, Winton said “he got into my head.”
“He showed up uninvited and you just have to listen and put the parts together,” he said.
The Shepherd’s Hut deals with strong themes of toxic masculinity and domestic violence, something Winton said he didn’t set out to write about.
“Blokes are puzzling...they are a bit of a mystery,” he said.
He said women were making great strides in their pursuit of equality and while it was great to see, he didn’t believe men were changing at the same rate.
“Men get sold on one narrative of courage, like taking a great mark at footy, but the greatest act of courage we can ever do is to give up something for someone else,” he said.
Winton said he didn’t set out to write a novel about domestic violence but said in light of the MeToo movement, The Shepherd’s Hut fit as a useful tool to engage with the issue.
“I wrote the book about two years ago but once it was finished I saw that reflected those themes,” he said.
“I thought as a man who has somewhat of a profile or a voice, it could be a good opportunity to discuss it.”
As a country boy from Western Australia, Winton said while he hadn’t visited Launceston for a while, he did like to visit Tassie.
“Richard Flanagan is in Hobart, so I love to get down there every now and then and share a beverage with him,” he said.
He said Western Australians always had an affinity for Tasmania because they “knew what it was like to be forgotten.”
“Although they don’t often forget us off the map,” he laughed.
The Launceston event will include a specially commissioned soundscape and a photographic interlude.
The event is hosted by the Tamar Valley Writers Festival and will be held on Saturday from 4.30pm.